Cohen off the rails…
There’s a jumbo-sized gag in Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest that’s as hilariously outrageous as anything in Borat. But on the whole, Grimsby has its creator-slash-star operating on a tamer, more sentimental register than usual, even when giving himself a pube goatee or doing alarming things to a certain ex-child actor.
The strange thing about Grimsby is that it works much better as a Bond-spoofing actioner than it does as a politically incorrect rib-tickler – which might have something to do with it being Louis Leterrier behind the camera instead of Cohen’s customary collaborator Larry Charles.
The Transporter man deftly serves up a battery of explosive set-pieces, kicking off with a pursuit through an African market-place viewed from the FPS-style perspective of MI6 super-spy Sebastian Butcher (Mark Strong). Yet he’s on shakier ground when the focus shifts to Butcher’s feckless sibling Nobby (Cohen): a beer-swilling, football-loving benefits cheat who tracks Seb down after 28 years for what he hopes will be an emotional reunion.
What he does, of course, is botch up Sebastian’s current mission to such a degree they are immediately placed on Interpol’s most-wanted list, forcing them to hide out in their home town of Grimsby where Nobby ekes a suitably Shameless life with his slobbish girlfriend (Rebel Wilson, given as little to do as Penelope Cruz and Isla Fisher are in their thankless roles as glamorous villain and MI6 helpmate respectively).
It’s a cartoonish portrait of the British underclass, conveyed with a Gallagher brother’s swagger. But it’s one we’ve seen before, not least from the film’s own under-utilised supporting players (Ricky Tomlinson, Johnny Vegas).
Nobby, in short, isn’t an inspired enough creation to justify a vehicle with even this one’s skimpy running time. And though lovers of Cohen’s outré humour will probably delight at the indignities heaped on a wheelchair-bound boy and copious jokes involving bodily fluids, they’re a poor substitute for the fearless, skewering satire we know he’s capable of.